by Ian Marshall
Furthermore, of the 24 players named on the entry list, he is by some distance the most experienced when it comes to the celebrated quadrennial event; in fact, he is seeking to make his fourth consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games!
He made his debut in 2008 in Beijing, four years later he was present in London before making it three in a row in Rio de Janeiro.
Likewise, but to a lesser extent, Mexico’s Marcos Madrid, Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador, and Cuba’s Andy Pereira all have Olympic Games experience.
Marcos Madrid, the no.3 seed and Brian Afanador, the no.5 seed, both competed in Rio de Janeiro, Andy Pereira, the no.11 seed, was present in London.
Previous Olympic Games experience but in Rosario that could count for naught; seeking to make their debuts, competing on home soil, Gaston Alto and Horacio Cifuentes are major contenders as are Ecuador’s Alberto Miño and the Dominican Republic’s Wu Jiaji.
Alberto Miño has a special penchant for Argentina; in 2016 in the Colombian city of Medellin he was crowned South American champion, later in 2017 and 2019, on each occasion in Buenos Aires, he completed a successful defence.
The now 30-year-old from Guayaquil appears amongst the most prominent names; he is the no.4 seed. Conversely, the name of Wu Jiaji, different to other competitors in Rosario being a right handed pen-holder, is down the order. Wu is the no.14 seed; make no mistake he is a major candidate for a Tokyo place.
At the Lima 2019 Pan American Games, he was the men’s singles runner up, a contest in which he tested Hugo Calderano, the Brazilian needed seven games to secure victory. Moreover, turn the clock back to the 2010 World Junior Championships in Bratislava, he was a member of the successful Chinese boys’ team. Additionally, he partnered Gu Yuting to mixed doubles gold, before reaching the boys’ singles semi-finals.
Major protagonists but could home advantage play a part? Horacio Cifuentes is the no.2 seed, Gaston Alto, the no.6 seed. Notably, Gaston Alto was the runner up at the ITTF World Tour 2016 Chile Open, since that date on the international scene he has proved ever more competitive.
However, if in recent times there has been an Argentine player to note, without doubt it is 23-year-old Horacio Cifuentes.
At ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, competing in under 21 men’s singles event in 2017 he won in Chile. Additionally, he won in both Spain and Paraguay in 2019.
More significantly at the recent World Table Tennis (WTT) tournaments held in Doha, he impressed. In the Contender event he beat Russia’s Sadi Ismailov prior to losing to Japan’s Masataka Morizono, in the ensuing Star Contender gathering, he overcame Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej, prior to departing proceedings at the hands of Sweden’s Anton Källberg.
Now those are most creditable performances; Horacio Cifuentes is the man in form.
Four places available, play is organised in two consecutive knock-out events; the finalists in the first qualify for Tokyo; the same for the second.